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Destination Belgium

Destination Belgium
It has become a bit of a joke to name something famous from Belgium - however that does this country a huge injustice. It may be a small country but it contains over 11 million people and has a long and rich history. Belgium can be split between sometime rivals Flemish speaking Flanders in the north and southern French speaking Wallonia, with the capital Brussels neatly sitting in between.

The cycling in Belgium follows similar lines with Flanders being relatively flat with a dense network of canals. The south is more hilly and rugged leading into the rivers and forests of the Ardennes. And in addition to beautiful landscapes, there are wonderful medieval cities like Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp and even Brussels, which all make for great cycling and sightseeing - particularly as part of one the very popular bike and barge tours like Ancient Low Countries  - Bike & Bateau from Yu Bike.

Belgium has a strong claim to being the heart of competitive cycling in Europe, playing host to some of the world's top cycle classics such as the Tour of Flanders, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and La Flèche Wallonne. For the keen but non-professional riders among us there are numerous tours that either follow the event or ride some of those great courses - and tour operator Cycle Classic Tours is the expert in this area.

Perhaps they like to do things fast in Belgium. Chips were actually a Belgian invention and in my experience are still served best here - with mayonnaise! Eating chips from a paper cone bought from a street vendor is a unique treat. On the drinks front, Belgium is world famous (there's that word again) for it's beers. There are over 1,000 different types brewed up and down the country. It's no wonder that one of the world's most tempting cycle tour companies, Beer Cycling, is located here.

So if you like road racing or fast food (Belgian style), relaxed cycling along the canals or gourmet cuisine, this small densely populated country is amongst the best countries in the world for cycling and in fact one of it's cities, Antwerp, is number five on the Copenhagenize Index of best cycling cities in the world. It is often quoted that Eddy Merckx, the former cycling pro racer, is the most famous Belgian - but I hope you get the picture that Belgium has a lot more to offer.

[This article also appears in the June 2014 issue of Cycling World Magazine]
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By: Bruce Robertson

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